Buffalo Dr. writes wife about trip to Philadelphia for extended education

Date Written

Nov. 7, 1827

History Referenced

Member of Series

Bryant Burwell was 31 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Ann Clark Burwell, was 31 when it was received.

Bryant Burwell died 33 years, 10 months, 1 day after writing this.
It was written 195 years, 10 months, 26 days ago.
It was a Wednesday.

{This is the one letter in the collection that is not signed and thus, it cannot definitively be said that it was written by Dr. Bryant Burwell; however, it was understood by me that he was the author when I purchased it and it was acquired along with other letters all of which were Burwell correspondence, including one from his son Dr. George Nathan Burwell to him. This letter was addressed to “My Dear Ann” and Dr. Bryant Burwell’s wife was Ann Clark Burwell and although he had a daughter named Ann, she would have only been six years old. Additionally, Dr. Bryant Burwell went to Philadelphia from in 1827 (the date on the letter is 7 November 1827) for additional education at the Jefferson Medical College, and in the letter the author writes, “Tomorrow I shall seek me a boarding house and settle myself to study.” On top of the letter not being signed, I was upset that someone had actually scribbled in pencil all over the backside of the letter sometime after it was written. Not until I had transcribed the letter did I look at the scribbling enough to realize that the letters (characters) in the scribbling were of the style as one sees in old correspondence, and indeed, the pencil handwriting, to my eye, matches the letter itself. Upon closer examination the pencil scribbling appears to be all medical notes about the heart, nerves, surgery, taken from either a lecture or a book written rather quickly and some are numbered; one note acknowledges the lack of understanding of the physiology of the heart and of the nerves in the cords. It is my belief that it was a letter written by Dr. Burwell to his wife Ann, whether it was actually delivered, I don’t know. The pencil scribbling is the best part of the letter. You can see it in image 3 – 5. There is also a diagram of the medical college he attended.}

November 7, 1827

My Dear Ann,

I have at least arrived in this city of Brotherly love when if Heaven does not otherwise decree, I shall endeavor to pass the winter. It was quite dark before I arrived, of course, I can say nothing of its appearance. The City Hotel is a fine house and probably as well Repts as Rathbun’s, I feel myself quite easy home; everything a man can wish is handed to him as quick as he can call for it—half a dozen waiters, porters, bartenders, etc. and instantly about you if you ask the least thing. If I am not very careful in asking questions I am often put to the blush. Thus in thinking of friends and home, I carefully enquired in what part of the town the Post Office was situated. “No. 116 South Fourth, sir” what name shall I send for sir?—None at all sir. Up steps an Irish waiter and says, “I’se go there for you sir?”—not tonight. A black fellow overhearing me says, “I will do sir, very early in de mornin,” very well sir; thus I got rid of that foolish question—Again wishing to shave in the morning, I enquired if there was a god barber in the vicinity—“an excellent one sir in the back room” & instantly before I was in the least aware of it, a bell was ringing, in came a black—“This gentleman wishes to be shaved, Michael”, says the steward—O’ not this evening says I; in the morning I will call on you—so I disposed of another question. There are fifty bells hanging in the room, each numbered and connected with as many bedrooms of the house when in your room—pull a cord if you want the least thing; instantly, a servant burst into your room bowing & scraping.

I left New York this morning at 6 o’clock in a steamboat—landed at Washington, New Jersey at 10 A.M., then in stages to Bordentown in New Jersey on the Delaware River, from there in a steamboat to this place where I arrived at 6 P. M.

This was one of the most rainy days I ever saw, from Washington to Bordentown we were entirely shut up in the stage. All I can say of this country is that it is level, sandy, dry, barren with a sparse population, old houses, old fences, and old fields where the land is too barren to be cultivated. Otherwise they have planted it with forest trees—I saw many young wood lot.

At Bordentown I saw the residence of Joseph Bonaparte, his fields, woodland, and park, deer, etc.—all very pretty—how peacefully he spends his life entirely retired from the world—rich and I suppose happy—from poverty he became the King of Spain, from there a private citizen in the intercourse of this state—such are the changes of this life. Tomorrow I shall seek me a boarding house and settle myself to study—though the first thing I do in the morning will be to attend the P. Office.

Scans of Letter